- Freedom Creek by Willie King & The Liberators (2000)
- Jukin’ At Bettie’s (2004)
- One Love (2006)
- I Am The Blues (2000)
- Living in a New World (2002)
Born March 8, 1943, in Prairie Point, Mississippi, blues singer and guitarist Willie King began his music career on a plantation with a homemade six-string “diddly-bo.” He and his siblings were raised by his grandparents after his mother and father separated when King was two. They grew up in a house filled with gospel and blues music. When he was six, the family moved to west Alabama. His music reflected his lifelong role as a social activist.
From 1967-1977 King worked and lived in Chicago. He returned to Old Memphis, Alabama, to work as a salesman, traveling rural roads to sell his wares, and talking politics with mostly poor, rural Alabama residents. He also got involved in the civil rights movement. Throughout the 1970s, King continued to write blues songs inspired by the civil rights movement. He called his political songs “struggling songs,” which he used to educate his audiences. In 1987, Jim O’Neal, the founder of Rooster Blues, was thrilled by King and his band The Liberators at a festival in Eutaw, Alabama. O’Neal liked King’s juke-joint guitar stylings, raw vocals, and political lyrics. When O’Neal relocated his label to Memphis from Chicago, he produced King’s Freedom Creek, which was released in October 2000. The album was recorded on location at Bettie’s Place in Prairie Point, Mississippi. The album was successful and was followed by Living in a New World, released in 2002.
An unassuming bluesman, Willie King lived his life in his rural community, Old Memphis, Alabama, near the Mississippi line. He annually held the Freedom Creek Festival, which benefited The Rural Members Association, (King’s organization sponsoring classes in music, woodworking, food preservation and other African-American traditions as well as providing transportation, legal assistance and other services for the needy for the past two decades). He played blues festivals in Europe, appeared in Martin Scorsese’s documentary, Feel Like Going Home, and was the subject of a documentary called Down In the Woods produced by Dutch filmmakers Saskia Rietmeijer and Bart Drolenga of Visible World Films. Known to blues fans nationally and internationally, King released six recordings and played numerous festivals.
He was recognized by Living Blues magazine in 2000, 2001 and in 2003 named Male Blues Artist of 2003. King was nominated for the traditional blues male artist of the year in the 2006 Blues Music Awards. In 2005, King was inducted into the Howlin’ Wolf Hall of Fame. King also was a repeat nominee for the W.C. Handy Awards.
Willie King played his last concert in Columbus, Mississippi, on Saturday night, March 7. He died on March 8, 2009, his 66th birthday, of a massive heart attack at Noxubee General Hospital. His wife, Mary Coleman, and his two daughters survive him.
- 1943: Born in Prairie Point, MS
- 1946: His parents separate and he is raised by grandparents
- 1949: Moves to West Alabama
- 1967: Moves to Chicago
- 1968: Moves back to Alabama
- 1983: Founded Rural Members Association
- 1987: Plays at a festival in Eutaw, AL
- 2000: Releases album “Freedom Creek”
- 2002: Releases album “Living in a New World
- 2003: Named Male Blues Arts of 2003
- 2003: Featured in Martin Scorcese documentary series “The Blues”
- 2005: Inducted into Howlin’ Wolf Hall of Fame
- 2007: Documentary Down in the Woods produced
- 2009: Passed away of a heart attack
- New York Times obituary for Willie King on March 8, 2009.
- Visible World Films: Willie King: Down in the Woods documentary